TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - The popularity of the houndstooth hats like what Paul "Bear" Bryant wore may soon be surpassed by a new hat in Tuscaloosa. It's the Nick Saban straw hat.
Ever since the Alabama head football coach was first seen wearing the straw golf hat during football practice, campus bookstores began stocking them.
And they quickly began flying off the shelves.
Whitney Foster, a salesman at the University of Alabama Supply Store, says he had someone call this week who wanted the exact hat and the exact brand that Saban wears. The customer wanted the supply store to put in a special order.
Since Saban was hired January Third, sales of Crimson Tide merchandise have skyrocketed.
Saban-related Tide merchandise has become particularly popular, with T-shirts saying "Got Nick?" and "Sabanation". Car stickers stating "S The Coach" have been selling out.
Bama Fever manager Minnie Burdette at University Mall says one of the most popular new prints to own is a framed photograph of the full Bryant-Denny Stadium on A-Day, with Saban out on the field.
University of Alabama specialty tags also have increased in sales by 15 percent during the first quarter of 2007 compared with the same period last year.
Last month, UA tags sold out at the Tuscaloosa County license commissioner's office. It's the first time that has ever happened, says License Commissioner Jeff Brown. The license commissioner now has about 100 in stock and plans to order more.
In January, when Saban's hire was announced, 341 University of Alabama tags were sold in Tuscaloosa County. By May, that number had swelled to 511.
As football season looms, the Saban rage is expected to grow.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)